04 March 2009

Questionable Amounts of Flesh, Growing Older (Wiser?) and Hysteria

I've been asked by a few people to resume writing analysis of the particular films I've seen, so here's a few. Sorry if they weren't the ones you wanted to hear more of...

Too Much Flesh - dir. Pascal Arnold, Jean-Marc Barr - 2000 - France - N/A - Jean-Marc Barr, Élodie Bouchez, Rosanna Arquette, Ian Brennan, Ian Vogt

The fact that Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr's Too Much Flesh was released with said title, the temptation to discuss at length the film's fleshiness and sexual content is unavoidable, and perhaps the only thing worth spending time on in the first place. Conceived as the second part of a trilogy dealing with the heart, the body and the soul, Too Much Flesh deals with, yes, the carnal desires of man, specifically one named Lyle (Barr) who's still a virgin at 35. He seems to be driving his wife (Rosanna Arquette) mad with this, and things don't get any better when he decides to lose his V-card to another woman, played by Élodie Bouchez, who not only starred with Barr in J'aimerais pas crever un dimanche but is the only actor to be in all three of Arnold and Barr's trilogy (Lovers and Being Light are the other two). Once the deed is done, we're given a series of lusty, dreamy sexual encounters between the two, one even involving Bouchez wanting Barr to seduce a young farmboy. There's plenty of issue to be taken about the fact Too Much Flesh isn't half the film Dogville is (which Barr co-starred in), but the film's display of sexuality is considerably more provoking than its notion of small-town, small-minded America. For the abundance of flesh on display, it's hard not to notice the way in which the camera or the body is always cropped in order to avoid Barr's penis. There's a suggestion in the film that there might be something "wrong" with it, but when Bouchez's body, which is not given the same treatment, becomes the concealer of choice (placing her hands and legs, among other things, strategically in front of Barr's member), any attempts at a European elitism over prudish American views of sex become futile. Too Much Flesh begins to perpetrate taboos it so snobbishly opposes in regards to full-frontal male nudity (Bouchez's hand also hides the farmboy's dick), which I'm sure most people would attribute to American cinema. The sex itself, while certainly more erotic than most films about blossoming sexuality, also stops short of penetration, and I'm referring to the simulated act. Ultimately, Too Much Flesh seems satisfied with not-really-enough flesh and becomes about as prudish as it thinks us Americans are.

Party Girl - dir. Daisy von Scherler Mayer - 1995 - USA - First Look - with Parker Posey, Guillermo Díaz, Sasha von Scherler, Omar Townsend, Anthony DeSando, Donna Mitchell, Liev Schreiber

God, I'm getting old. More than ten years ago, Party Girl was one of my touchstones of hipness. Yeah, it probably always was a shitty movie, but what I'm realizing now is that, outside of the multi-character Gen-X films she co-starred in (Dazed and Confused, Kicking and Screaming, Sleep with Me), Parker Posey was probably the only actress who constantly rose above her shitty films. I rewatched The House of Yes a few weeks ago and could barely get through it. It's probably the greatest compliment one can give an actress to be so wonderful as to distract the viewer from recognizing the lousiness of the film at hand. While I'll always admire Mary's ice-cold hauteur (which was the exact phrase a critic used to describe her while condemning the film), I don't know that I'll be taking many more trips down memory lane with Party Girl. Talk to me when you get a last name, honey.

L'important c'est d'aimer [The Main Thing Is to Love] - dir. Andrzej Żuławski - 1975 - Mondo Vision - France/Italy/West Germany - with Romy Schneider, Fabio Testi, Jacques Dutronc, Claude Dauphin, Klaus Kinski, Roger Blin, Gabrielle Doulcet

It's rather fitting that I'm watching Andrzej Żuławski's films around the same time Jeremiah Kipp's been interviewing Daniel Bird about Central New Wave Cinema at The House Next Door. I should confess that although I included Żuławski's Possession in the revisited section of my 2009 Notebook, I'm not 100% certain that I saw the full film prior to this year, after renting a crappy VHS of it from an independent video store years ago which, more than likely, was the US edit. In the interview, Kipp states that "[Żuławski's highly emotional and aggressive films] are frequently criticized for their 'hysteria.'" These are similar criticisms that have been given to Ken Russell's films with "mania" as the substitute for "hysteria." However, in looking back at both directors' films, there's something terribly admirable about this "hysteria/mania." When you're hard-pressed to come up with a contemporary filmmaker to match either (Baz Luhrmann be damned!), there's a sad sense that perhaps such cinematic mannerisms have become relics. L'important c'est d'aimer (which is a difficult title to translate into English) was Żuławski's first big success, in France of course as it was his first to be made in the country and starred two cultural icons, Romy Schneider and Jacques Dutronc. Though it lacks the alarming-ness of his later Possession, L'important c'est d'aimer is wonderful still, particularly for Schneider, who considered this to be her best work and whose performance here was one of the dedications at the end of Almodóvar's Todo sobre mi madre. As Nadine Chevalier, an actress specializing in films de cul, Schneider devastates within her first moments onscreen, unable to find it within her to fuck the dying body of her onscreen lover. Żuławski has a flair with actors, eliciting the frightening best of out of both Schneider and Isabelle Adjani in Possession and wonderful turns from Dutronc and Klaus Kinski as well. Was I wrong in absolutely hating Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours, particularly Dutronc's performance? I'll have to give it another go. Best line in the film: when asked if he's crazy after planting a kiss on the film's dull protagonist Servais (Fabio Testi), Kinski responds, "no, just rich."


Cindylover1969 said...

Wait a minute... Jean-Marc Barr's married to the eternally sexy Rosanna Arquette and he's still a virgin?!? J.J. Abrams would throw that plot point out for being too hard to believe.

The Green Shroud said...

I totally agree about Parker Posey - quite underrated, and totally amazing in Best in Show!

dmk said...

Was I wrong in absolutely hating Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours, particularly Dutronc's performance?
Probably, because it's a truly beautiful film.

I love [b]That Most Important Thing: Love and Possession[/b] a little bit more, but [i]My Nights[/i] is still beautifully lyrical and heartrendering.

S.E.B & J.A.D. said...

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Fascinating photos. I would like to use a couple of them in my forthcoming book. Who posted them, who owns them or are they public domain?